A/N: Hello hello i'm still alive hello what's up
Dedicated to coffeelatte. This is my first REAL time trying to write from Yuushi's POV and he was being a giant donkey and not cooperating and blehhhhh. I adapted some scenes from IAG ish.
O sweet Juliet,
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate
And in my temper soften'd valor's steel!
It was a regular Sunday morning when Yuushi first brought it up. The whole team was at one of Atobe's brunches, chatting and occasionally slinging casual insults at one another. And one particular word seemed to strike a nerve in Atobe, who nearly choked on his tea upon hearing it.
"Ore-sama," he seethed. "Is not dependent."
"Yeah, you are," Mukahi argued. "Even at practice, you're too busy making googly-eyes at Suzuki – think you can concentrate enough to not lose suckishly to Tezuka next time?"
Had it been plastic, Atobe would've hurled the teacup at Mukahi's face, but, well, this was the good china.
(And he was doing his best to keep the current fight he was having with Nanao under wraps, anyways.)
"Well, I think it's very cute," Choutarou supplied, before turning to Yuushi with a critical look, "And aren't you in the same boat?" he inquired, "Senpai," he added hastily.
"He's right," Jirou added, taking a long sip of Turkish coffee – the whole team had found that if you pumped him full of caffeine, he was more inclined to stay awake during daylight hours. "You hardly have a leg to stand on, Yuushi."
"Compared to Keigo?" He laughed, unperturbed. "I'm not the one who made an announcement about my dating status in front of the whole school."
"But you do ditch us whenever you see her," Jirou pointed out.
"I do not—" he started to protest.
"You text her every five seconds," Taki put in.
"You literally do the most ridiculous things to get her attention," Atobe added. "Grand larceny, for example. Right, Kabaji?"
"Well I rather think Shigohara-senpai won Elizabeth the 3rd fair and square in the end…" Choutarou mentioned, and that reopened a debate about the whole poker match.
While the other members were arguing, Yuushi turned to Shishido and asked, "Does everyone really think this about me?"
"Come on, Yuushi," Shishido said, twisting his cap around. "When's the last time you even hung out with us and didn't bring her along?"
Yuushi made to respond, but paused. Had it really been that long? To be honest, he'd been quite caught up in the whirlwind that was Shigohara Minako. He'd even tried to bring her along for tea today, but she'd refused.
At his hesitation, Mukahi scoffed. "You are so whipped."
"Really, now," he responded mildly, taking off his spectacles and dusting them off on his shirt, a calculated move on his part to appear casual. "That's a bit of an exaggeration."
"Please," Atobe snorted. "All she has to do is whistle, and you'll go running to her like some kind of Swedish lapdog…"
"Keigo, if you must compare me to a dog, I'd prefer to be an Afgan hound," Yuushi said, letting flippancy conceal his light annoyance. "They are a far more elegant breed."
"With all the time you've been spending by the girl's tennis courts, I was wondering if you wanted to try out for them." Taki and Mukahi shared a snicker.
Okay, now that was a bit unnecessary.
Yuushi forced a smile. He was tempted to challenge them both to a match here and now, but… that would've been too petty.
Hyotei's tensai rarely got angry. Impatience, disapproval, and conceit… these were emotions that were familiar to him. It was uncharacteristic of him to be so hot-headed.
While the regulars could tease Atobe about his dependency on Nanao, or even his fondness for expensive silk shirts, his personality was so gargantuan and dominant that no one ever questioned who wore the proverbial pants in that relationship.
But Yuushi, on the other hand, did not have that luxury.
It was the 21st century. Yuushi knew he shouldn't care about gender roles and power plays and masculinity… but… it stung, all the same.
"Yeah Yuushi, you better watch how much time you spend on the girls' courts," Mukahi sneered. "Or you'll start playing like one of 'em."
"Well if I remember correctly," Yuushi said, spinning a butter knife on the table lazily. "Minako thrashed you quite soundly the last time you two met on the courts."
"Kind of an embarrassing score too, wasn't it?" Jirou laughed. "6-2, or something like that?"
"Shut up, how would you know, you were asleep the whole time!"
While they were bickering, Atobe turned to Yuushi. "Feeling defensive today, are we?" he murmured in slight amusement.
The light on Yuushi's glasses flashed. "I wouldn't worry about me," he said cordially. "By the way, how many times has Nanao-chan called you in the last hour? Are you still playing the stubborn fool?"
Atobe's smirk slipped from his face.
Hiyoshi muttered under his breath about "distracted seniors" and then said, "I'll Gekokujou you both."
"Really?" Yuushi regarded him. "How do you plan to do that while you're panting after Narita Ayumi's shoes?" His tone remained light, but there was a warning edge to it.
The bridge of Hiyoshi's nose went bright pink.
Mukahi dropped his fork.
Atobe shot him a narrow look. "Yuushi."
Yuushi eyes met Atobe's stare, briefly.
A line had been crossed. As much as they could fling insults and barbs at one another in good fun, Hiyoshi Wakashi was Atobe's protégée, and thus, was afforded a certain amount of protection. Teasing him about his unrequited crush in a malicious manner was clearly not tolerated. It was unacceptable, regardless of what kind of foul mood he was in.
"Apologies," Yuushi murmured, inclining his head, and Hiyoshi responded in turn with a careless shrug.
Shishido took a large gulp of tea. "Honestly, Coach Sakaki would kick any of us to the curb if we put our dating lives above tennis."
"Oh, is that why you still haven't made a move on Matoko Rie?" Taki said, causing Shishido to sputter up his tea. The rest of the team laughed, and the conversation moved on.
By the time afternoon practice had rolled around, Yuushi had (for the most part) bundled up his irritation into a neat package and tucked it away.
Was he feeling better? No. But was he above acting like a petulant child in front of his entire team?
With gritted teeth, he drove his racket into the ball, slamming a winner past Taki. He celebrated the point with an extra-smug smirk, and his opponent threw him a dirty look. This was a casual practice match, and unleashing too much skill was frowned upon.
As Taki walked back to the line to serve, Yuushi's thoughts drifted back to the conversation this morning.
Was he always the first to text, the first to seek her out? Had it been wrong of him to make her a priority in his life? Was he giving her too much control over him?
He was so lost in thought that Taki's serve almost hit him in the face, prompting good-natured jeers from some of the onlookers.
When the next ball came, Yuushi readied his stance, aimed, and hit a return ace so perfect that even Atobe was speechless for a second.
He may not be able to defend his non-girlfriend to them, but at least he could squash any speculation that he "played like a girl."
"Game and match, Oshitari, 6-1!" Shishido called from the umpire's chair. Then in a lower voice directed to Yuushi, he said, "Felt like showing off today?"
"Mm. A tad." Yuushi gave him a frosty smile, before heading to the water fountains to cool off. After refilling his bottle, he took off his glasses and splashed some water over his face.
"Hey stranger," an unmistakable voice came from behind him. He turned.
Minako was standing there, her hip cocked to one side and a faint smile on her lips.
He swiped a towel over the back of his neck. "Hey."
"Haven't heard from you since yesterday." Her tone didn't carry a question, but she did raise a brow in his direction.
"Yeah, sorry." He rubbed the back of his neck. "It's just… it's been a rough day."
He hadn't texted since his conversation with the guys in the morning. Truth be told, he was still processing his thoughts, and being around her made it hard to think.
He exhaled. "Some of the guys…" he started to say, but paused. She tilted her head at that, a bemused expression on her face.
It's not about her, he suddenly realized. Minako wasn't particularly well-liked by his friends, but… The conversation this morning wasn't about her, it was about the way he'd acted when she was around.
And, that was his problem. Not hers.
So instead, he shrugged. "Never mind, it doesn't matter. It's good to see you."
"Well, then." She took a step towards him, so she was closer. Hypnotically close. He could practically feel the warmth of her skin. "Maybe I can come by later, and we can see about…" She lifted her catlike gaze to his, and smiled coyly. "Raising your spirits."
He couldn't help but smile in return. "I'd like that," he murmured.
It was amazing how he already felt better. Sometimes, just being in her presence could make him happy. She could use the twinkle of her eyes and the curve of her lips to clear away his foul mood, like wiping rain off of a windshield.
Was it really a surprise that as of lately, he preferred her company to anyone else's?
There was a stray curl of hair on her face, indicating that whatever training she'd done earlier had been quite tough. Yuushi reached out to tuck it behind her ear, leaning a little closer—
—Suddenly from behind him, Gakuto made a whiplash noise, causing some of the boys to snicker.
Yuushi didn't react, didn't even turn around, but the slightest twinge of irritation flickered across his face. His hand dropped back to his side.
Minako surveyed him with an inscrutable expression, before suddenly turning to his doubles' partner. "And how are you, Mukahi?" she asked sweetly. "Still single?"
Gakuto's expression immediately turned sour. The boys chortled.
Yuushi suppressed a chuckle. "Hey," he murmured, touching her arm lightly. "I'm glad you stopped by."
"Well," Minako said, tossing her hair back. "As much as I like schooling acrobatic divas—" Gakuto's sputtering became incoherent—"I'm actually here to talk to Atobe-kun."
Atobe, who happened to be walking by, practically hissed at the patronizing honorific. "What," he said with ice-cold politeness, "Could ore-sama possibly do for you?"
"I thought we could use the second half of practice today to play some matches." She crossed her arms and smirked. "Your team and mine."
Atobe opened his mouth to retort hotly, then closed it again. It was a knee-jerk reflex to refuse. But she'd asked him in front of everyone, and he'd caught the way that Shishido's eyes lit up with interest, the way Gakuto swiveled his head over to the girl's courts immediately. And to personally crush Shigohara Minako into the court… well, that would be very, very satisfying. "Fine," he said, though not without anger at how easily she'd manipulated him into saying yes, "Ore-sama will grant your request."
"Excellent. Let's talk match-ups, and I'll get Rie to assemble to team." Her smile was undeniably smug.
Atobe bit back a snarl. He couldn't wait to wipe the court with her.
Unfortunately for Atobe, not only had Minako slotted herself in a match against Ootori Choutarou ("he has a better serve than you," she'd stated matter-of-factly, and Atobe had made an indignant choking sort of noise), but she had also won. Narrowly. At a game count of 7-5.
And that her victory had somehow helped endear her to the rest of the boy's team. Skill was something they were forced to acknowledge, regardless of how dislikable a person was.
Which made him dislike her all the more.
Atobe had played Fuuma Eri, and he knew from the start that the match was not going to be easy. Her mild-mannered personality belied the power in her swing, and her insight practically rivaled his own. He won too, 6-4, but it was unexpectedly difficult. She'd even forced him to use Rondo Towards Destruction to cinch the win.
Yuushi had paired with second-year Gamaro Kyou to play against Matoko Rie and Gakuto. Matoko had speedy footwork that covered the court well for Gakuto's acrobatic antics. His own partner Gamaro was solid at doubles, and she had a tricky forehand shot that did weird things to the ball, but she was ultimately less experienced than the third years – and they lost, 7-5.
Which meant that Yuushi had to hear Gakuto brag about it for the rest of practice. And he would probably brag for all of tomorrow, too.
After Yuushi returned to his home, he arranged the materials he and Minako would need for their literature project in neat piles on his desk. Aside from analyzing the script of Romeo and Juliet they were also expected back up their findings with themes of love from other works of literature. On his desk were a stack of classics that he dug out of the library – Madame Bovary, Pride and Prejudice, and Wuthering Heights.
He debated on adding one of his most saccharine romance novels to the pile, if only to see Minako wrinkle her fine-bone nose in distaste.
"Onii-san?" Erina poked her head into his room, a pocky stick hanging out of her mouth. "What are you up to?"
"Just getting some things ready. Minako's coming over in a bit to work on our project."
She twirled another pocky stick around in her fingers. "You've been spending a lot of time with her, haven't you?"
Yuushi looked at her coolly. "Your point?"
"Father can't be too happy about who your girlfriend is." She bit off a chunk of the pocky stick, and Yuushi was reminded of a praying mantis or spider – the kind that bites off the head of their lover.
"She's not my girlfriend."
"Oh?" Erina's eyebrows were raised. "So you two are just screwing, then?"
Yuushi shot her a sharp look. Erina had a rather capricious personality. In the face of society, she was absolutely precious, an innocent girl with blue eyes and sandy blonde-hair, the epitome of grace. In private she was brusque and sly and sometimes downright diabolical. "Have you been spying on me?" he demanded.
She gave him an imperious look. "Please, Onii-san. I have much better things to do."
"Answer the question."
"I have fencing practice at seven a.m sharp. I've seen her sneak out of your room in the morning. Don't worry," Erina added before he could open his mouth. "I'm probably not going to tell on you."
Yuushi paused. "What do you want?" he asked suspiciously.
"The Kyoto Protocol signed, peace in the Middle East, and the income tax rate lowered…" She sighed dramatically. "But I suppose the new Oscar De La Renta gown will do."
"Fine. Send me the link."
The first time their older sister, Haruka, had snuck a boy home, both of them had seen him. Haruka had bought them a month's worth of ice cream to keep them quiet. Now that they were older, shrewder, and the price to pay was much, much higher. Inflation, they called it.
Although, it was all a front. They may tease, make veiled threats of blackmail, but the three Oshitari siblings were undeniably close. They would never betray one another's trust.
And their parents weren't dumb. They knew what went on behind closed doors. But such matters were certainly not subjects of discussion at the family dinner table. Or to be brought up. Ever.
Erina plopped down on Yuushi's bed next to where he was sitting. "Haruka thinks you're being dumb, by the way."
"She asked me after she saw a photograph of you two at the yacht party," Erina said, scrolling through random texts on her phone. "I told her."
Yuushi wasn't sure how to respond, so he went back to Romeo and Juliet.
"She's… worried," Erina finally said. "About you."
"Why?" Yuushi asked skeptically. "Worried that I'll get my tender heart broken?" It seemed a lot of people were worrying about that, these days.
"She thinks… we both think…" Erina hesitated. "You know that family. You just can't trust them." The Shigoharas had money, old money, which often equated to prestige – but unlike the Suzukis, who ran a moderately profitable yet respectable family business, the Shigoharas obtained their monstrous prosperity through questionable means. It was rumored to be dirty money. Tainted wealth. "You shouldn't trust them."
He fought the urge to respond – 'No, she's different, she's not like that' and instead responded with, "I don't need to trust her."
"Right." Erina fixed him with a look. "Because you don't really care that much."
"Sure, sure," she murmured sarcastically, and Yuushi bumped his hip against hers, making her chuckle. "Look," she continued. "I like Shigohara-senpai. She's cool, and she's kind of a badass. I mean, anyone who can challenge Atobe really..." She let the words hang, but they both knew what she meant.
Anyone who could – or even dared to— challenge Atobe Keigo deserved respect.
At Hyotei, Atobe Keigo was King. That was undoubtedly clear. He had anointed himself at the top of the pyramid, given himself implicit power – yet what was most remarkable was the deftness at which he exercised it. He inspired legions of loyal followers, could mobilize the entire school with a snap of his finger.
But where there was power, there was resistance.
And Shigohara Minako wore her hauteur like a queen wore her crown. Confidence and influence she had in spades. However, it was mostly in the way others treated her – with reverence, with wonder, with fear – that cemented her status as royalty.
But if Minako ever tried to dethrone Atobe Keigo, she would fall, fall, fall. And, Yuushi suspected, no one was more aware of that than she was.
Instead, she challenged him in ways that chipped away at his power. Her words were subtle, well-aimed barbs, designed to wound instead of kill. She was an earthquake shaking his pedestal, showing that he wasn't as infallible or unassailable as he seemed. And he despised her for it.
Her ability to provoke ire in Atobe Keigo was almost akin to one infamous, cap-wearing, bratty freshman from across Tokyo.
"You're happy though, right?" Erina asked, tilting her head to face him. "Because that's really all we care about, y'know."
"I am," Yuushi said, and the two of them shared a warm smile.
"I hope I'm not interrupting."
They both looked up. "Oh, hello Shigohara-senpai," Erina said. "We were just talking about you. How long have you been standing there?"
"Not long enough, apparently, since I missed that discussion." It was impossible to tell if she was lying. She deposited her own stack of books on the desk and leaned up against the door frame. "Erina-san, how's your fencing going?"
"Really well," Erina responded, her eyes lighting up with a predatory gleam. "We're going to Nationals."
"That's lovely to hear. Sometimes I wish I'd taken up fencing. I feel like it is such a useful skill to have."
"And why is that?" Yuushi drawled curiously.
"I don't know," Minako waved a careless hand. "I feel like it might come in handy – knowing how to skewer people through the heart."
"I'm not sure you would need to learn that skill, then," Yuushi said with a twinkle, a hand over his own heart. "You pierced mine pretty well with Cupid's arrow already."
Minako tried to give him a hard look, but couldn't stop the way her lips twitched in amusement. "Erina-san," she said instead. "Do me a favor."
"What is it?" Erina asked curiously.
"The next time your brother is out of the house, take every single one of his romance novels," Minako said. "And burn them."
Erina covered a laugh.
"Erina wouldn't dare turn on her own brother," Yuushi proclaimed.
"Oh, I don't know about that," Erina said, pretending to consider her options. "I think doing Shigohara-senpai a favor may be beneficial to me in the long haul."
"You wouldn't," Yuushi protested.
Erina shrugged. "I could be persuaded." The two girls exchanged a glance and smiled in a chillingly similar fashion that sent shivers down Yuushi's back. And not in a good way.
"So I hear you're here to work on a literature project with Onii-san?" Erina said. She got up from the bed to walk to the door.
Now that they were standing by each other, there were noticeable similarities. Not in the way they looked, but they way the held themselves, their shoulders slightly back, their chins imperceptibly lifted.
"That I am," Minako replied. There was a wink in her voice when she added, "Among other things."
"Well, I won't disturb you two much longer. I'm sure you have things to do…" Erina said slyly. "It's good to see you as always, Shigohara-senpai." She lifted her chin, shutting the door very firmly (and obviously) behind her.
"I knew I always liked her," Minako commented after her footsteps had faded. She took a seat next to Yuushi, with her own copy of Romeo and Juliet.
"She's terrifying," Yuushi said plaintively. "I should inform Father that he's raising a monster."
"She's a girl after my own heart," Minako said fondly, tucking her legs under her.
"Precisely my point."
She laughed. "I wish I had siblings," she said, with a rare note of wistful sincerity.
"No you don't," Yuushi responded. "They are nosy, they butt their heads into your business, and they fight you for social dominance every chance they get."
"So, no different than being on the tennis team, then?" She grinned.
"Yeah. It's pretty much exactly like that." That was basically like having seven brothers that he didn't ask for, but loved unconditionally. Even if they were annoying and drove him up the occasional wall.
"Speaking of which... " He prodded her foot with his. "You played well today against Ootori."
"Mm," she murmured noncommittally. "He could've had me with those Scud serves. That double fault into the net was fatal." She stretched out her racket-wielding arm. "Once he gets that serve percentage up, he'll be a terror on the courts."
"Your Gamaro is a piece of work too," Yuushi said.
"You think so?" A rare note of pride entered her voice.
"That forehand. I thought Gakuto was going to wet himself when she swung it at him." The tall girl had a shot that looked and felt positively explosive. It was certainly not something he wanted to be on the receiving end of.
"She'd give Hiyoshi a run for his money next year, that's for sure." Minako had yet to declare a successor the way Atobe had Hiyoshi Wakashi, but Gamaro seemed like someone dependable. Like someone worthy.
Like someone who could, one day, bear the weight of her crown.
"By the way, I didn't see Nanao-chan today," Yuushi mentioned lightly. "Was she at your practice earlier?"
"No, she said something about studying, which is code for 'avoiding Atobe.'" Minako's voice carried a tone of disdain. "Which I don't get— why would you send someone eleven missed calls, twelve text messages, and four bouquets of hyacinths only to actively avoid them in public?"
He covered up a chuckle of disbelief. Her numbers were accurate — he'd heard the same from Keigo himself — but it was quite impressive how deftly she could recite them from memory. Her fondness for Suzuki Nanao was apparent as day, no matter how much she tried to deny it.
Yuushi also knew that Keigo had a cold encounter with Nanao earlier that day, one that practically left the poor girl in tears, but it wasn't really his place to divulge such information. "I think she could use some cheering up."
"Maybe she could."
"Maybe someone could take her out for some girl time."
At this, Minako leveled a who-do-you-think-I-am glare towards him. "I have better things to do than play doctor to someone's relationship wounds," she declared, but Yuushi knew from her slight hesitation that she was considering it. He smiled.
She flipped hastily through the pages of Romeo and Juliet. "While we're on the subject of wounded relationships, we still need to narrow down what theme we're doing for our analysis." She picked up a pen and made a note on a piece of scrap paper.
She was right, he thought. More often than not, the time they set aside for their literature project ended up being time they spent doing, well... other things. They were a tad behind and really should get to work, he reminded himself.
But instead, he prodded her again with her foot.
She gave him a half-annoyed look. "What are you doing?"
He slid closer. "I happened to notice that we're alone now."
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, I suppose we are… But you seem much better than you were this afternoon."
He slid even closer. "My spirits could still use some raising," he murmured lowly into the crook of her neck.
She edged away half-heartedly. "Your sister could come back."
"She won't. Erina has the devil's personality but…" He smiled wickedly. "She can be very discreet." His lips found her jawline, his hands sliding down her waist…
"We need to work," she protested. "We're already behind on our project."
"I'd rather be behind you," he murmured roughly, his breath hot against her ear. He took great delight in her reaction, watching her flush a pale red from the base of her neck to her cheeks, hearing her breath hitch in her throat.
Until she smacked him in the face with Romeo and Juliet.
She rolled away from him. "Work first. Play later."
He knew from her tone that there was no convincing her otherwise. "Fine," he said, though not without a grumble. He joined her so they were both lying on their stomachs, propped up by their elbows, their books in front of them.
After a few minutes of perusing the literature, he suggested, "How about a theme of fate and love?"
"Hmm." She considered it, then shook her head. "Too obvious. Besides, I'd rather pick a theme that doesn't make Romeo look like the idiot he is."
"He's a romantic."
"Which is synonymous with 'idiot' in my book."
"Come on, Minako—"
"Look here," Minako said, flipping to another page. "Juliet's like, let's make nice between our families and Romeo says ok. And then one scene later, he's all like, 'whoops sorry, I killed your cousin and have apparently been exiled.'" She gave him raised eyebrow. "You can't tell me he did that out of love."
"You do have a point there," he conceded. "And it's not as if your favorite books are amok with romantic themes." He gave a pointed look towards Madame Bovary.
"That's the thing. Love ruins everything." She let out a frustrated breath. "Maybe that should be our project conclusion."
"Now that's just sad."
"Love never ends well. Look at the evidence," Minako said, waving a hand at the stack of novels that she put on the desk, which included Anna Karenina and Far From the Madding Crowd. "Tolstoy, Hardy, Flaubert, Fitzgerald… Chasing the illusion of love only destroys things."
"Well sure, since you only read depressing things," he said petulantly. "But Romeo and Juliet had a great love together—"
"Right, and six people died in the span of three days," Minako shot back, sarcasm dripping. "How positively romantic."
He had to laugh at that.
After she made a note, she edged her book towards him. "How about the effect of love on masculinity? Love kind of turns Romeo in to a girly wimp." She pointed out a passage.
O sweet Juliet,
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate
And in my temper soften'd valor's steel!
The words made Yuushi feel somewhat nauseous. "No," he managed. "Not that one."
"Why not?" She gave him a strange look.
"Just… not that one."
She shrugged in response, and they both went back to their books.
For a moment, he opened his mouth to add something, to explain himself, perhaps even share what happened this morning.
Then he closed it again.
He wasn't sure how to put his feelings into words. The mild humiliation he'd felt, the less-than-mild annoyance. And above all, the sinking feeling that his teammates may have had some truth to their comments.
He just wasn't ready.
"You don't tell me anything."
"I don't really tell anyone anything."
"That's something we should change."
"I told you. We don't have that kind of relationship."
"This is not a relationship thing. This is a friendship thing. It's called being a decent human being."
He'd said those words to her, and meant them. Meant them with all his heart.
He couldn't shake the feeling that if he did that, shared his secrets and revealed his insecurities, it would be like exposing his throat to a fox.
Five minutes later, it came to him. "The cost of love."
For a moment, she just stared at him.
"That's it," she breathed in amazement. "That's it." Her eyes lit up. "We could use examples from The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, Tess of the d'Ubervilles…" Her voice was animated, excited. "It's the perfect theme. It all works.
"Yuushi, you are a genius!"
He smirked. "Really, how could you even doubt—"
He was cut off, when she dropped her book on the bed, leaned over and planted a kiss on his lips.
As they broke apart, Yuushi couldn't keep the satisfied grin off his face. "Well, now that that's done…" He slinked back over to her, pressing himself close to her.
"Uh-uh," Minako said, wagging her finger at him. "We're not done. We still need to group the quotes we selected and find supporting evidence."
"We could do that after…" he suggested, trailing a finger down the length of her arm. He could tell from the hazy look in her eyes that she was thinking about it, and he probably would've leaned over to steal another kiss—
—had a knock at the door not interrupted them.
Yuushi sighed dramatically, and moved a respectable distance away. "Come in!" Really, if this was Erina again, he was going to strangle her.
But the door opened, and his father was the one to walk through.
"Father." Yuushi immediately sat up.
"Yuushi." His eyes widened fractionally upon seeing Minako — he had clearly not been expecting her. "And I see you've brought Miss Shigohara," he said with cold pleasantness. "It's lovely to see you again. What brings you to our estate?"
"Romeo and Juliet," Yuushi said with a straight face.
Minako resisted the urge to kick him. "We're working on our literature project, sir," she clarified instead, as she got up from where she was lying down. She smoothed her hands over her skirt.
"I see..." But Oshitari Senior didn't budge from the doorway. He looked between the two of them intently and clinically, like he was trying to discern an illness. A pathologist looking for a broken cell.
Yuushi gave him an odd look. "Is something wrong, Father?"
He cleared his throat. "I would really prefer if you and Miss Shigohara finish your work somewhere more... appropriate." His lips were in a hard line. "The library downstairs is unoccupied."
Minako and Yuushi exchanged slightly baffled looks. "Um… sure," she said slowly, picking up some of the books from the bed. There was a slight embarrassed blush on her face, like that of a child who'd been caught stealing a cookie. "Of course."
Yuushi frowned. "You go ahead. Excuse me for a moment," he said to her, and she responded with a silent nod. "Father, can I speak with you?"
He waited for Minako's footsteps to fade before he got to his feet. "What was that?" he demanded, shoulders back.
His father's tone was too amiable to be well-intentioned. "I merely think you two would be more productive in the library."
Lies. Just a few weeks ago, his parents couldn't care less if he brought home a gaggle of girls and went the whole damn way with all of them, so long as he did it with discretion and in private. "Father, you've never been one to pour over propriety."
"In the future, I'd prefer it if you would conduct your affairs in more public locations. I'd like to keep an eye on them."
One corner of Yuushi's mouth tugged downward. "You mean, keep an eye on us."
His father didn't answer.
"Fine," Yuushi relented with a sharp exhale. So they had to hide their transgressions from one more person. It hardly made a difference. "Fine." He almost crossed his arms. "Did you need anything else?"
"Actually, I wanted to speak with you. Dr. Yamada called today..." his father mentioned. "He said you postponed your hospital internship duties on account of… too much schoolwork?"
His posture became even more defensive. "I've been quite busy with my literature project."
"Hmm. You've been spending a disproportionate amount of time on your literature project, if you ask me."
"Well, it is worth a good portion of my grade."
"You've been busy with some other things, too." His father shot him a pointed look, and Yuushi tensed up. "Things that are... probably not worth your time."
At this, Yuushi did cross his arms. "Father," he said, unable to keep the accusatory and confrontational tone out of his voice. "What is this?"
"You didn't care about Minako last month. You even said I should use her to raise my own social standing. Your own words. What changed?"
"This relationship hasn't been very beneficial to us."
"I believe I asked you to find out if Shigohara Noburu is stealing our technology."
"Father, you said that you would trust me to use my own judgment."
"Perhaps that was my mistake." Oshitari Senior sighed tiredly. "I always knew you were a sensitive soul, but I thought I taught you not to be naïve."
It was Yuushi's turn to look affronted. "Excuse me?"
Yuushi was many things. Deceitful? Yes. Condescending? Without a doubt. Whipped? Possibly.
But naïve? No. He knew exactly what he was getting in to, had known it from the beginning.
"You don't trust her," Yuushi said in realization to his father. "You think she's here because of some ulterior motive. You think she's with me because of some ulterior motive."
His father didn't look at him, and instead mechanically adjusted a pencil on the desk. Said calmly, as if he were discussing the weather, "Perhaps it's not in your best interests to keep seeing her."
"With all due respect, Father," Yuushi said with an undercurrent of annoyance. "It's my choice who I see or don't see."
His father looked at him with his disapproving gaze (the kind that could usually make him or any of his siblings flinch) and Yuushi met his stare.
"You never cared when I was dating Satsuma," Yuushi spoke up. "Or Iwari, or Matsumoto." All extremely well-bred and beautiful girls, perhaps not quite as striking as Minako was, but certainly within the ballpark. He tilted his head curiously. "What don't you like about her?"
Yuushi quelled a disbelieving laugh. "That's it? You'd rather I date one of those half-wit heiresses?"
"No, I don't want you to date some simpleton," his father practically snapped. "But… when the object of your affection is that beautiful, that cunning, and that cold-blooded…" He paused. "You're toying with something very, very dangerous."
"Toying?" Yuushi repeated.
At this, his father closed his mouth, giving him a peculiar look. He paused for a moment. "She must be very, very important to you," he said evenly.
Yuushi bristled. ""She… No. It's not like that."
"I see…" his father finally said, but from his tone, Yuushi could tell that his father didn't believe him at all.
When he finally joined Minako in the library, she asked him what took him so long, and what they talked about.
He just gave her a kiss on the cheek and a vague answer, and was quite relieved when she didn't press him further.
The weather was particularly hot and humid the next day, making practice more difficult than usual. After seeing the sweaty mess that her team was reduced to after just half of practice time, Minako declared an extra long water break they could recuperate. It worked out, since she needed some time with her thoughts as well.
Omae Ikuyo, the other second-year regular, had approached her earlier that morning. She made her intentions very clear that she too, would like to be considered for captaincy the next year.
It was a tricky situation, because Omae and Gamaro were her Doubles Two pair, and also happened to be friends.
Omae had promise, Minako thought to herself. In terms of overall skill, her potential may be even greater than Gamaro's. But in terms of leadership and influence, Gamaro had the upper hand.
She sighed, splashing her face with some water. There was no easy decision to be made.
"Hey there, Shigohara," a voice came from beside her. Based on the flirtatious tone, she half-expected Yuushi to be there, but it turned out to be Iwashita - a classmate of hers on the volleyball team. "Your team's looking pretty good."
"Thanks." She toweled off her face and neck. "What brings you to our courts?"
"The AC is busted in the gym. Captain ended practice early." He gave her a shrug and a boyish smile. "I'm bored, so I'm just wandering around."
"So you've come to check out how a winning team conducts practice?" She smirked as she balanced her racket on one finger — a trick she picked up from Shishido.
Hyotei's tennis team was so popular that other teams weren't given as much attention, and thus achieved far-less success. The other nationally-ranked teams at Hyotei were equestrian, fencing, and golf.
He laughed good-naturedly. "Hey, we may be in the loser's bracket, but we could still win the consolation shot to Nationals."
A sudden commotion came from the boy's courts. They both glanced over, where a group of students were cheering on a match between Hiyoshi and Jirou. Yuushi was in the umpire's seat, calling the score.
"So you and Oshitari…" Iwashita suddenly said, his tone deceptively neutral. "Are you guys exclusive?"
His question caught her off guard, but she recovered quickly. "Why?" She regarded him, a hand on her hip, her head artfully tilted. "Are you interested?"
"Hmm…" There was an unfamiliar glow to his gray-green eyes. "I could be tempted."
'Well,' she thought. 'This is interesting.' She wondered if Iwashita would've approached her if he hadn't been a part of the conversation in the hall last week.
"What are we talking about?"
"He's not my boyfriend."
She didn't respond immediately, and instead stretched her arms out behind her head, her shirt lifting slightly to reveal her slim waist. It was mechanical to her, the way she arched her back just-so, extending her legs a little more, always presenting her best angles, her best curves, like a tigress aware of the power of her tawny body.
Iwashita didn't even bother to hide his appreciative stare.
She gave him a seductive smile, one that spoke of rabbit holes and uncharted waters. "You couldn't handle me."
"So you're saying you need to be handled?" he retorted, one brow arched. "It seems to me that you've got Oshitari wrapped around your little finger. Wouldn't be surprised if you had his balls in your purse too."
Had she been less shameless, she probably would've winced.
He leaned up against the wall, his stance casual – but Minako could tell he was intrigued. Riveted. "Come to think of it," he murmured. "You'd be a lot of trouble."
She gave him a carefully constructed smile, ignoring the twinge of indignation she felt when he mentioned Yuushi. "Exactly," she said calmly. "You'd be dodging a bullet."
He moved a little closer. "Well. Maybe I wouldn't mind getting hit." Before she could come up with a witty retort, he shoulder-checked her gently as he walked back to the school building.
The odd tightness in her chest slowly dissipated when he left. There was a sickening sort of comfort in slipping into old mannerisms, flirty quips and sultry smiles, to play yet another game of cat-and-mouse and devour her suitor. Though she only had a very mild interest in Iwashita Keisuke as a person, she appreciated how candid he was. That, if anything, was a mark of bravery.
(Or stupidity. Seeing how it could hardly end well for him if word got out he was pursuing her.)
The only other guy who'd been so direct with her was…
She glanced back towards the courts. The Hiyoshi-Jirou match was over, and the crowd around the court had dispersed. Yuushi was nowhere to be seen.
She craned her head, trying to locate him—
—and suddenly found herself meeting Atobe's stare.
The hostility in his expression proved he witnessed at least part of the encounter. It was like staring into the sun, intense and blinding and almost painful. Had he blinked, she would've relaxed, but he did not blink — he held her suspended and motionless, his gaze as heavy as an anchor, dragging her down.
It was no wonder that even the best tennis players on the high school circuit sank to their knees in front of him.
Minako looked away first, and to her, that felt a bit like running away.
The next morning Yuushi woke up in a bit of a mood.
He'd spent the night at Minako's. The sun was just starting to peek through the curtains, which meant he only had an hour or so before he had to sneak out of her house. She was waking up too, eyelids fluttering, limbs stretching against him.
She looked at him, her lips curving into a half smile. "Morning," she murmured.
He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and heard her sigh contently in response.
For a minute, he considered not saying anything.
But when she leaned on her side, and just smiled at him, that soft half-smile that could brighten every crevice of his heart - well, it made him feel like the most special person in the world.
The thought of her waking up next to someone else, smiling like that at someone else, turned his stomach.
"Minako, I need to ask you something," he said finally said as she was reaching for her phone on the bedside table.
She kept her gaze on her phone, but raised an eyebrow to show that she was listening.
There was no backing down now. "Are you-" He swallowed, gathering his courage. "Are you doing this with anyone else?"
With a frustrated sigh, she put her phone down. "What did Atobe say?"
There was no denying that. Yuushi gave her a sheepish smile. "Well…"
"Does it matter?" she interrupted. "Does it really matter if there's another boy, or ten others, or a hundred?" Suddenly she was on top of him, pinning him down, straddling him. "The fact that I'm here with you, right now… isn't that what matters?
"If you really need validation," she said, pausing to capture his lips in a heated kiss. "I like you, Yuushi. Very much." Her sentence was punctuated with a slight roll of her hips.
He stifled a groan and ignored the way all his blood rushed to one place. "But," he said with a pointed look. "Is this all you like me for?"
She was silent for a moment. Then she rolled off of him with an aggravated exhale, her eyes narrowing. "We can't keep having the same fight, Yuushi."
"I'm not trying to fight," he said back, trying extremely hard to keep his tone level. "I just want a discussion."
She sighed again. "You're welcome to see other people."
"I don't want to see other people."
"Really?" She raised an eyebrow, and her tone was very deliberate. "Not even... Yoshida?"
His lips parted and he almost glanced away in guilt. Almost. "So you knew about that."
She just gave him her patented 'exactly-who-do-you-think-I-am' look.
"Well, I did tell you that I was with someone," he said, and it came out a little sharper, more defensive, than he intended.
"Yuushi," she said, and this time she just sounded weary. "You said you were ok with this."
"I am. I am," he insisted. "But I just need you to be honest with me. If there's someone else…" He paused, and there was something ugly twisting within him. "...is there?"
She gave him a long, hard look. After a pause, she said indolently, "No. Not at the moment."
He wasn't even aware that he was smiling until she gave him a half-amused, half-disgusted look and said, "Well, don't look so gleeful about it."
"I can't help it," he said innocently, still grinning. "That's just how my face is." He pulled her in for another kiss, feeling her smile into his lips.
My Minako, he thought possessively. My darling Juliet.
As if guessing his thoughts, Minako tilted her head towards the copy of Romeo and Juliet on her nightstand. "Do you think they would've been happy together?" she asked. "Had they lived?"
"Sure. It was true love."
She rolled her eyes. "Even if it was 'love'" — She used airquotes, prompting a playful scowl out of Yuushi — "They wouldn't have any family, friends, or any money. Realistically, I don't think they would've lasted." She gave a little shrug. "I can't see how they could."
"My Juliet," he said, reaching over to stroke her hair. "Are you posing this question as a real-life metaphor?"
"That's just the thing, Yuushi. I don't think I'm your Juliet. I think I'm your Rosaline."
Her words gave him pause. "What do you mean?"
She let out a long breath. "Someday, you'll meet someone who can give everything you want. Everything that I can't offer you. And you'll forget me as soon as that person comes along."
Her smile was like the morning mist, soft and faded.
He wasn't sure how to respond.
She gave his leg an affectionate kick. "Oh don't feel bad for me," she said, laughing a little. "At least I survive the play. And hopefully meet some billionaire with a yacht who's dumb enough to marry me without a pre-nup."
That made him chuckle, albeit wryly. "What kind of yacht?"
They proceeded to debate the benefits of a tri-deck versus a convertible while the sun came up.
Practice went on as usual that afternoon. The heat had subsided considerably, and there was even a light breeze. Perfect tennis conditions.
Shishido was the one who noticed her first. "Hey, isn't that Suzuki over by the girl's courts?"
She was standing by the edge of the courts, by the small staff parking lot. She had some forms in her hands and appeared to be waiting for something.
"Huh. Maybe she's signing up for the girl's team," Mukahi mused.
Atobe turned his head around so fast it nearly gave him whiplash. "What."
At this time, Nanao noticed all of them looking at her. She gave them a timid wave, which Oshitari returned with a small smile, friendly enough to acknowledge her greeting, not-so-friendly enough to give an indication that she should approach.
Atobe acted like he hadn't seen her, though his tense posture made it obvious that he was acutely aware of her presence.
"She asked about you. Again," Oshitari said quietly. "Did I mention that?"
"You are insufferable," was Atobe's huffed response. "Did I mention that?"
"Keigo, I really think—"
"I think," Atobe cut in. "That we should be upstanding senpais and give our attention to our underclassmen." Ootori and Kabaji were on the court engaged in a practice match, and were currently tied at 3-3.
"Fair enough," Oshitari allowed, and proceeded to act completely engrossed in what was happening on court.
Suddenly, the sounds of the court were completely drowned out by another noise: the unmistakable roar of an engine.
The sound got louder and louder, until even Kabaji and Ootori stopped mid-point and craned their necks curiously to see what was happening.
A sleek, black Lamborghini sped into view, whirling around in a circle, before breaking with a small screech in front of Nanao.
The window lowered to reveal Shigohara Minako. For good measure, she blared the horn – twice.
Now everyone looked up – including Atobe.
"Get in, Nanao," she said. "We're going shopping."
Nanao timidly hopped in, but not before giving Atobe a quick (and slightly guilty) glance.
Minako, on the other hand, threw him one of pure triumph. She hit the accelerator, the car vrooming off, leaving a cloud of dust to drift and settle on the courts.
No one dared to speak.
Atobe's face had turned a lovely, vibrant shade of purple.
Oshitari couldn't keep the ear-to-ear grin off his face. "Well…"
End Chapter Ten
Y'all deserve lots of love for still following this story. -throws virtual puppies at you all-